Votes are in

The much-ballyhooed electronic voting machines used in last week’s city elections found favor with election officials and the majority of voters. “We’re so tickled,” says city registrar Sheri Iachetta. “They worked really well.”
Iachetta says she could “count on two fingers” the people who preferred punch cards, while a couple of dozen calls came from people who “loved the automation, who loved the ease of the machines.”
“It’s so easy a first grader could do it,” says Nellie Moubry after voting at Recreation precinct.
Because they must first be certified by the State Board of Elections, the Hart Intercivic voting machines are not yet a done deal for Charlottesville. Iachetta stresses that it’s not her decision to make, but if the machines are approved for state use, she’d be interested in continuing to use them, she says.
Only a few voters didn’t care for at all for the machines.
Nancy Gillies is one. She thinks her difficulties in using the machine came from inadequate directions; she believes that step-by-step graphics or audio headphones would have solved the problem.
“That little video wasn’t at all easy to figure out,” she says of the two-minute instructional video voters were encouraged to watch. 
Gillies is not computer illiterate, but to be on the safe side, she brought along a friend who teaches computers– and she still found the machines difficult to use. The hair-trigger action of the selection knob to enter the four-digit access code was the biggest kink.
“I had trouble getting the select knob to stay on seven. It’d go from eight to six,” says Gillies. The pre-election hype about how easy the machines were to use heightened Gillies’ anxiety.
And it didn’t help that she was very conscious of people waiting behind her in line as she struggled with the machine, a situation that would be worsened during a national election.     
At the Venable precinct, Gillies saw an elderly black man ask for help in using the machines. She believes he was intimidated from taking the survey about the machines by a “gang of Farmington-looking women” clustered around the survey table. “He looked so bewildered, he touched our hearts,” she says.
“I think it’s going to frighten away people who don’t have home computers,” she adds.
Gillies also was peeved by an election official she describes as “a study-hall proctor woman who looked annoyed that we weren’t thrilled” by the new machines.
“She kept saying most people really like this except for older women,” says Gillies, 60, “and she looked older than me.”
That prompted Gillies to write on her survey, “Please do not discount me because of my gender and age.”
Some voters objected to the access code and worried it would leave a paper trail that could identify their votes. In previous elections, voters were given a number to turn in when they voted. In this election, the number is given to an election official who prints out an access code to be entered once the voter is in the voting booth.
Registrar Iachetta says the code is randomly generated to keep people from walking in from the street and going directly to a machine to vote and that the code cannot be traced to the voter.
Charles Rausch, 83, doesn’t disguise his distaste for the machines. “I think it stinks,” he says after voting. “It’s a waste of time and money. The old punch cards were perfectly easy to use.”
Did Rausch experience any problems in using the machine? “I didn’t because I’m intelligent, and I can read,” he says.
Rausch uses computers– not often, he says, adding, “I don’t like computers either.”

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